CTVglobalmedia pleads takeover case


TORONTO -- Canadian media giant CTVglobalmedia on Wednesday sweetened the pot for Canada's broadcast regulator in its bid to secure permission to bend federal rules with its CAN$1.4 billion ($1.2 billion) takeover of Chum Ltd.

As Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission hearings into the controversial takeover wrapped, CTVglobemedia promised to raise its investment in homegrown local TV shows airing on Chum TV stations from CAN$103.5 million ($93.3 million) to CAN$123.9 million ($112 million).

The increase is aimed at securing the regulator's blessing for the top-rated CTV network, a division of CTVglobemedia, eventually owning local TV stations in five major Canadian markets -- Toronto, Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary and Winnipeg.

CRTC rules currently bar broadcasters from owning more than one TV station in any Canadian market. CTV already has an exemption to own and operate two TV stations in Toronto and Vancouver.

"We're not in the business of killing deals," newly installed CRTC chairman Konrad von Finckenstein told critics of the Chum takeover Tuesday, mid-way through this week's hearings.

At the same time, the five-strong CRTC commissioner panel hearing the CTVglobemedia application did not disguise their concern that offering three additional exemptions in Edmonton, Calgary and Winnipeg threatened to gut their ability to regulate the domestic TV industry.

"This deal is done," CRTC commissioner Stuart Langford, told Peter Murdoch, vp of media at the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union, who told the panel on Tuesday that he opposed the Chum takeover deal for fueling media concentration in Canada.

"But with some toing and froing and pushing and pulling, we could whip this (deal) into shape," Langford added.

In his final appearance before CRTC commissioners to rebut critics of the deal, Ivan Fecan, CEO of CTV and CTVglobemedia, promised to increase the production fund to flow from the Chum takeover, and the number of hours of local programming at Chum TV stations in Calgary, Edmonton and Winnipeg.

CTVglobemedia also has pledged to maintain separate news management operations at CTV and Chum.

The CRTC is expected to rule on the CTVglobemedia-Chum deal within six months.